Many may recognize Dr. Balbir Gurm as an accomplished and driven instructor in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s faculty of health program. When Gurm isn’t educating the nursing students at KPU, she’s fighting for justice for people experiencing violence at the hands of those close to them.
One of the many ways she does that is through her committee with the Network To Eliminate Violence in Relationships.
Violence in relationships is an ongoing issue, and according to CBC, thousands of Canadians are harassed, assaulted, or murdered by their intimate partners every year.
However, violence in relationships is not specific to just intimate relationships. It can also be present in a relationship between a parent and child, and seniors and their caregivers, and so on.
“You want to identify that it’s power in oppression between any people that know each other,” says Gurm. “There are overlapping signs and symptoms, but the major theory that fits all of them is power and privilege.”
The network was created in 2011 with the goal of combating violence in relationships. It emerged from Gurm’s first community action research project.
Her idea for the organization went beyond holding meetings, and her goal was to reach out to the community and educate the public on countering violence in relationships.
She has always been one to fight for progress. During her undergraduate studies, Gurm was a student politician, lobbyist, and president of the nursing undergraduate society. Her work has always involved shedding light on issues affecting women and assisting various types of women’s organizations. She was, for example, president of the Canadian Women’s Organization.
Today, she strives to make her advocacy louder through her work with NEVR.
The committee grew and expanded its focus when the service provider community — which includes other post-secondaries, police services, lawyers and other groups — wanted to do more to help.
“They wanted to do more than conferences. They wanted an organization that would advocate for them, where they could come together and look at what was happening in the system and what they wanted to change,” says Gurm.
“What we try to do now is engage and support all our service providers through education, awareness, advocacy and collaboration.”
NEVR is also working to advocate for the provincial and municipal governments to provide more resources.
“We’ve asked government to do it. I haven’t really seen any action,” she says. “KPU has granted me an educational leave this year where I’m trying to get a lot of resources together that service providers could use, academia can use for classes, community members could just go online and look at.”
She says violence in relationships is an international epidemic which receives little attention in comparison to others.
“To me, that’s got a lot to do with the severe physical abuse being against women, and men being raised to believe that they can just take and that it’s their right to take,” she says. “And until we start changing our social structure and the way we treat each other, this is an issue that’s not going to go away.”
She continues to look for different ways to educate the masses on spotting violence in relationships and helping the people who need it.
She and some of her students from the health program have worked on a report called the Prevention Toolkit for Bartenders and Salon Workers. The report was created to educate hairdressers and salon workers on providing assistance to victims.
Melissa Granum, a Delta corporate planning manager who works with the Delta Police, offered assistance with the production of the toolkit.
“A toolkit like this is helpful as it informs and educates people,” she wrote. “If one hairdresser helps empower just one person, then it was worth all of the effort.”